Thursday, October 1, 2020

Hockey’s black “problem”.

January 20, 2020 by  
Filed under News, Opinion, Sports, Weekly Columns

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( The 2020 Honda NHL All-Star Game will take place this weekend. The National Hockey League’s best players will have the opportunity to show their skills in St. Louis, Missouri. Among the players selected as All-Stars were Anthony Duclair of the Ottawa Senators, the Blue Jackets’ Seth Jones and Max Pacioretty, and Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Those players are notable because Duclair and Jones are black while Pacioretty and Matthews have Mexican backgrounds. The NHL is not known for having players of color among the many players that make up its leagues and the sport of hockey may have major issues getting more due to alarming situations during 2019.

One of hockey’s most well known names is Don Cherry. The longtime hockey television commentator was fired in November 2019 due to alleging that the country’s immigrants don’t properly honor fallen soldiers during on-air television segment. Some of Cherry’s comments included saying, “You people … that come here, whatever it is — you love our way of life. You love our milk and honey. At least you can pay a couple bucks for a poppy or something like that. These guys paid for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada. These guys paid the biggest price for that”. Although Cherry is Canadian, it is the kind of divisive rhetoric that is similar to that of the current U.S. president.

Those comments by Cherry were just the tip of the iceberg of hockey’s culture of exclusion as former professional hockey player Akim Aliu faced multiple racist incidents that came to light in 2019. Aliu, who is black, revealed two different racist incidents during his professional hockey career that happened before 2019. During the 2009-10 AHL minor hockey league season, Akim Aliu, who was with the Rockford IceHogs, said on Twitter that his then-head coach Bill Peters “dropped the N bomb several times towards me in the dressing room in my rookie year because he didn’t like my choice of music”. Peters admitted to doing so and resigned as head coach of the NHL’s Calgary Flames in November of 2019.

Another disturbing sign of racism happened towards Akim Aliu in 2011, when, Tony Deynzer, the Colorado Eagles’ minor league equipment manager, who dressed up in blackface at a team Halloween party. Deynzer was not acting alone as Aliu told the Wall Street Journal that he was told to show up to the party late. When he walked in, Deynzer “appeared from behind a corner,” according to Aliu, who added that Deynzer “was in blackface, wearing an Afro-style wig and a jersey that had been custom-made with Aliu’s number and nickname ‘DREAMER’ emblazoned on the back.” Aliu mentioned that the guys at the party laughed at the racist impersonation of him. He accepted Deynzer’s apology in 2019 and asked that Deynzer doesn’t lose his job.

Despite the NHL’s long history, the league finally began to embrace its black history back in February of 2019 and the Hockey Hall of Fame took an absurd amount of time to put Willie O’Ree, the NHL’s first player of color in 1958, into its Hall of Fame. Those are two big examples of how hockey has a problem acknowledging black hockey players and the racist incidents that were revealed in 2019 show that hockey, a Canadian sport, has similar racism problems as America.

Staff Writer; Mark Hines

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